Thomas Lang makes music for Frank N. Foode™

thomaslang-900As you know, we’re working on the music for our educational video series, Cooking with Frank N. Foode™, and we are seeking donations to help fund this important part of our new outreach project. Next, I want to introduce you to Thomas Lang, who composed the music for this series. We knew it would be a challenge to create music that fits the topics we would talk about on the show, and bring out both the science and the character of Frank N. Foode™. We were fortunate to not have to look very far to find Tom.

Several years ago, Ariela and I were already acquainted with Tom while he was a composition graduate student at UW-Madison. He worked in the campus music library, and he was a very helpful tutor and a fantastic composer, we soon learned. Three years ago we attended a concert that featured his award-winning piece, Music for Orchestra in However Many Incarnations, which was inspired by actors who played Dr. Who in Doctor Who.

Listen to the first movement (on YouTube) (William Hartnell)
Listen to the second movement (on YouTube) (Patrick Troughton)

Since I was doing a science radio show at the time on WSUM, we invited him to do an interview about his music, which  I told him sounded like early Jerry Goldsmith music. Because I used an array of science fiction soundtracks as theme music for the show, I was quite familiar with the different composers and their styles.

Three years later, when we realized that we needed fresh theme music for Cooking with Frank N. Foode™, Ariela naturally suggested we get in touch with Tom, who graduated with his doctorate and now resides in Minnesota. He was thrilled to take a stab at it, and we met several times via Skype to talk about the music and hear his samples and provide feedback. Ariela, the Musical Director for the project, helped bridge the language barrier between science and music. I’ve been really glad to have Tom’s help with our project, but let’s hear from Tom about what he thought!

Composing for Frank N. Foode™

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Tom’s handwritten sheet music, before transcribing it to the computer.

I’ve always enjoyed collaborating across disciplines.  My first opportunity to do so was in 2007 when I worked with the Xperimental Theatre in Minneapolis, writing incidental and vocal music to accompany a new play by Harlan Chambers called “The Interrupted Dream.”  Since then, I have returned to various collaborations in one form or another, whether with visual artists, poets, or other performers.When Karl came to me with this project, writing music for an educational Internet video series, I couldn’t resist.  I’ve always felt an affinity towards music written for television and film, especially music from the classic series of Doctor Who, Star Trek: The Next Generation, anything by Alfred Hitchcock, and great swaths of music for the silent era, the film Metropolis in particular.

My work with Cooking with Frank N. Foode™ has been particularly enjoyable, however, as this is the first time I’m working with someone from outside the arts altogether.  Finding a common language to discuss what we have in mind is always a quite enlightening endeavor, for as we learn about each other, we learn about ourselves in turn.

Thanks for your support of this project!  I hope you’re looking forward to the world premiere of Episode 1 as much as I am!

I hope that we will have more chances to collaborate in the future! Indeed, with your support, we can continue to make great, new musical interpretations of science. I hope you will consider supporting our project. Next time you will hear about the musicians that we recruited to play the theme music.

Thomas Lang’s Bio:

Thomas C. Lang’s music has been performed at the LaCrosse New Music Festival, UW-Madison New Music in April Festival, the Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Pittsburgh Festival of New Music, the Bennington Chamber Music Conference, and by the reed trio Le Triangle d’Or, the percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion, the UW-Madison Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, the Winona State University Wind Ensemble, the Badger Bones Choir, and the University of Minnesota’s Xperimental Theatre.  In 2010, the first two movements of his Music for Orchestra in However Many Incarnations (each movement based on an actor who played the Doctor in Doctor Who) won the annual UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra Composition Competition, and they received their world premiere in February 2011.  His music has been broadcast on WORT 89.9, WSUM 91.7 and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Upcoming performances include his Sonata for Euphonium, Trombones, and Percussion, a commission from euphoniumist Brett Keating.  The sonata will receive its world premiere as a multimedia performance featuring the photography of Xavier Nuez.  Further upcoming performances include a commission from Pittsburgh’s Incidental Chamber Players, a work for flute, viola, and harp, and he will also serve as composer in residence for the group for their 2014-2015 season.

Thomas has taught as a TA in music theory at the UW-Madison School of Music, and as an instructor of music composition and advanced theory for the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic.  He has also taught as a guest lecturer in music theory at the University of St. Thomas, and has presented masterclasses in music composition at Southwest High School in Minneapolis.  He currently teaches private lessons in composition and music theory out of his home in Minneapolis.

Thomas holds a Bachelor of Science in music education from Winona State University and a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts in composition from the UW-Madison.  Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski have been his primary teachers in composition.

Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:

Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.